Fire in Boston causes huge blackout, evacuations


The John Hancock Tower sits in the heart of the Back Bay neighborhood on March 31, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.



A fire caused a major blackout last night in Boston but Mayor Thomas Menino promised this afternoon that all would be well by the time commuters leave work this evening, according to The Boston Globe.

Firefighters battled a three-alarm fire overnight Tuesday in the city's upscale Back Bay area which resulted in power cuts to 21,000 consumers, 12,000 of whom remained without power this morning, according to The Globe.

Described by the Boston Herald as a smoky electrical transformer fire in a stand-alone utility building, it caused a massive blackout. 

The Boston fire department said in official tweets that power was shut off to a wide area and residents urged to stay indoors and close windows.

According to Reuters, firefighters responded to a call around 6.30 p.m. to the NStar substation containing a 115,000-volt transformer, located in a garage near the 390-room Back Bay Hilton.

The Associated Press quoted Mike Duran, a spokesman for the utility NStar, as saying the problem in one electrical substation spread to a second one.

The power outage was affecting Back Bay, Chinatown, the theater district, Kenmore Square and parts of the South End, he said.

Reuters reported that the Back Bay area, popular with tourists and locals owing to its shops, bars and restaurants on Newbury and Boylston Streets, was relatively busy owing to unusually mild March weather.

City buses helped evacuate the area as streets were closed down, power was cut to buildings and traffic lights, underground trains diverted and part of Interstate 90, which runs through a tunnel directly under the Back Bay neighborhood, was closed.

Fire department spokesman Steve McDonald said that "thick, black, acrid smoke" poured from the scene of the fire and billowed overhead.